That Was Then, This is Now

That Was Then, This is Now Summary and Analysis of Chapter 5


Mark and Bryon stop in to see Mike, whose father had come and made everything worse for him. Mike says he wishes he were dead, or someone else, and Bryon, who escapes “depressing stuff like that,” goes down to the cafeteria to see Cathy. He hears that Ponyboy has been trying for Cathy’s attention too, but Cathy prefers Bryon, and the two begin going out.
One night, Mark and Bryon head to Charlie’s to hustle pool. They borrow money from M&M, and play against a couple of toughened Texan cowboys. After winning heavily against them, they head out, but the Texans, hiding in an alleyway, hold a gun to the boys and force them into an alleyway. They are about to get beat up by “Dirty Dave” and his brass knuckles, until Charlie holds a shotgun and tells the Texans to let go. Just as the boys think they are safe behind Charlie, shooting erupts—the Texans shoot, Charlie pushes the boys to the ground, and then Mark grabs Charlie’s gun and shoots at the Texans—and they get up to find Charlie dead.
Time speeds up and yet Bryon feels as though he is moving in slow motion. He is heavily affected by Charlie’s death, and feels very much at fault. He only talks to Mark and Cathy about his thoughts about it. However, Mark does not really see from Bryon’s perspective. Bryon feels that Cathy understands him, and he spends more and more time with Cathy. Cathy is honest, innocent, and has dreams of going to college. Mark begins acting weird, and even jealous of Cathy, with Bryon; he often stares at Bryon trying to figure him out. Angela Shepard gets married to a friend of her brother’s. Bryon believes that he himself is changing, while Mark is not.


Charlie’s death is the impetus for Bryon’s growth, change, and rapid maturity. Bryon is forced to grow up suddenly and quickly when his friend dies—and when he is forced to shoulder this emotional guilt from Charlie’s death. This incident is strategically placed after Charlie and Bryon’s remembrances of their former days, and makes Bryon realize that as much as he loves the wonder of his past days, he can no longer dwell there, and he must move forward.
Furthermore, during the impending fight with the Texans, Bryon is forced to consider who people really are—in defiance to Dirty Dave, Mark says, in a voice Bryon cannot even recognize as Mark’s: “you’ll know you been in a fight if you tangle with me” (pg. 84). In the ensuing crossfire, Mark also doesn’t look like himself, in the dim lighting. Bryon says that Mark “looked perfectly capable of murder; his only regret was that he has missed” (pg. 85). The consequences and emotional impact of this incident also drive Mark and Bryon further apart. Bryon feels responsible in part for Charlie’s death, while Mark justifies everything by just saying that “Things happen; that’s all there is to it” (pg. 86). Bryon describes the drifting part as each of them holding on to different things: Mark to Bryon, and Bryon to himself. The differences foreshadowed in the earlier chapters come to a more explicit head in this section of the story.